Rogue Valley News, Monday 4/29 Grants Pass Church Buys the Flying Lark Property, Cave Junction Man Sentenced to More than 14 Years Federal Prison for Illegally Possessing Firearms and Narcotics, National Small Business Week & Other Local and Statewide News…

The latest news stories of interest in the Rogue Valley and the state of Oregon from the digital home of Southern Oregon, Wynne Broadcasting’s RogueValleyMagazine.com

Monday,  April 29, 2024

Rogue Valley Weather

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Grants Pass Church Buys the Flying Lark Property

A Grants Pass church will be taking over the Flying Lark facility that has been on the market since last September. River Valley Church made the announcement to their congregation and via their Facebook page Sunday morning. https://www.facebook.com/RiverValleyChurchOregon/videos/1910808109341095

The building built by Dutch Bros cofounder Travis Boersma on Josephine County Fairgrounds property was meant to house a restaurant and historic horse racing machines. But it never came to be because the State Department of Justice said it would violate state gambling laws.

River Valley Church Campus Pastor Michale Bahn said, “We’re really excited about this, this new spot because of its location. And you know, I love some of the story that’s behind it. It’s powerful. Very special people with big visions put this into place. It’s an honor for us to continue in the spirit of it all to try and make a difference and be an encouragement to our city.”

River Valley Church has begun the planning process for renovation and repurposing of the existing facility and plans to complete their move by spring of 2025.

 

Cave Junction Man Sentenced to More than 14 Years Federal Prison for Illegally Possessing Firearms and Narcotics

—A Cave Junction, Oregon man with a lengthy criminal history was sentenced to more than 14 years in federal prison Thursday for illegally possessing methamphetamine and 12 firearms while on state supervision.

William Thomas Gillespie, 39, was sentenced to 173 months in federal prison and five years’ supervised release.

“This lengthy prison sentence is a just outcome for a man who poses a significant danger to the community. We thank our partners on the Rogue Area Drug Enforcement Team for their dedication and commitment over many months to bringing Mr. Gillespie to justice,” said Nathan J. Lichvarick, Chief of the U.S. Attorney’s Office Eugene and Medford Branch Offices.

“With Mr. Gillespie’s lengthy criminal record involving drug distribution, illegal firearms, and flight from supervised release, this significant sentence is well warranted,” said Jonathan Blais, Special Agent in Charge of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF) Seattle Field Division. “ATF will always investigate those who endanger our communities and citizens through their illegal actions.”

According to court documents, on April 6, 2020, Gillespie was arrested in White City, Oregon attempting to deliver approximately 174 grams of methamphetamine. At the time of his arrest, he possessed six baggies of methamphetamine and a digital scale. After Gillespie consented to a search of his residence, investigators located and seized 12 firearms, including an AR-15 and multiple AK-style rifles. Three of the firearms were found to be stolen and one had an obliterated serial number.

On November 5, 2020, a federal grand jury in Medford returned a three-count indictment charging Gillespie with illegally possessing a firearm as a convicted felon, illegally possessing a short-barrel rifle, and possessing methamphetamine with intent to distribute.

On June 23, 2021, Gillespie was released from custody pending trial, and, on August 1, 2022, pleaded guilty to illegally possessing a firearm as a convicted felon and possessing methamphetamine with intent to distribute.

On January 2023, Gillespie absconded from his supervised release and a warrant was issued for his arrest. On September 13, 2023, Gillespie was located and arrested in Bandon, Oregon.

This case was investigated by the Rogue Area Drug Enforcement Team (RADE), a multi-jurisdictional narcotics task force supported by the Oregon-Idaho High Intensity Drug Trafficking Area (HIDTA) program. RADE includes members from Oregon State Police, the Grants Pass Police Department, Josephine County Probation & Parole, and the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF).

This case was prosecuted by Judith R. Harper, Assistant U.S. Attorney for the District of Oregon.

 

Oregon State Police are investigating the cause of a fuel tanker trailer crash in Wilderville on Sunday.

Fuel tanker trailer rolls over in Wilderville

The trailer rolled over on Redwood Highway near Round Prairie Rd at around 12:21 p.m. The driver was able to get out of the vehicle uninjured.

Rural Metro Fire crews came onto the scene to find the trailer leaking diesel and gasoline. Crews from OSP, ODOT and the Josephine County Sheriff’s Office helped respond, with a team from Caveman Towing finishing the heavy recovery three hours later.

 

2 Hospitalized and 3 Dogs Dead in Grants Pass RV Fire

UPDATE, April 29 at 7:45 a.m.: Rural Metro Fire confirmed that a third dog has been found dead. The fourth dog is currently being cared for by Rural Metro Fire.

2 hospitalized, 2 dogs dead after RV fire erupts in Grants Pass

One person has suffered a severe burn while the other has minor burns. The Oregon State Fire Marshal is still investigating.

 

Getting a head start on the future! 👍 We recently talked with dozens of local high school students about firefighting careers during the Careers in Gear event.
🚒 The students learned and asked us questions about our different roles, gear and equipment and the job application process.

National Small Business Week Celebrated April 28 to May 4, 2024

There are far-reaching advantages to deciding to “shop local.” By supporting local businesses, you are in turn supporting your local economy; significantly more money stays in a community when purchases are made at locally owned – rather than nationally owned – businesses.

The U.S. Small Business Association and the U.S. Department of Labor report the positive impacts of small, independent businesses on local economies.

  • Local businesses are more likely to utilize other local businesses such as banks, service providers, and farms.
  • For every $100 you spend at local businesses, $68 will stay in the community.
  • Independent retailers return more than three times as much money per dollar of sales to the community in which they operate than chain competitors. Independent restaurants return more than two times as much money per dollar of sales than national restaurant chains.
  • Small businesses employ 77 million Americans and accounted for 65% of all new jobs over the past 17 years.

In addition to helping build the local economy, there are also notable intangible benefits that come from supporting businesses in your local community.

  • Local businesses are owned and operated by your neighbors!  They care about and are invested in the well-being of your community and its future.
  • Local businesses are more accountable to their local communities and donate more money to non-profits.
  • Supporting local businesses is good for the environment because they often have a smaller carbon footprint than larger companies.

It isn’t always the easiest or most convenient option to visit a local independent business rather than a large national chain that might be down the street. However, there are plenty of ways you can help support your local economy by thinking local first:

  1. Try the menu at a local restaurant for lunch or dinner
  2. Purchase a birthday present at a local gift shop
  3. Join a local gym
  4. Visit a local nursery or hardware store for your lawn and garden needs
  5. Get your car serviced at a local mechanic
  6. Visit a farmer’s market to purchase the ingredients for your family dinner.

Top 10 Reasons to Shop Local First

  1. To shape and preserve our distinctive community character
  2. Local competition and diversity leads to more product choices
  3. It keeps and recirculates money in our community
  4. You’ll help support local job and opportunity creation
  5. It reduces environmental impact locally
  6. Because local businesses reinvest in our community
  7. It strengthens the local economy
  8. Because the local businesses help fund local non-profits
  9. To ensure that tax dollars stay local
  10. It encourages community pride and ownership

So the next time you need to run out for some groceries or do a little shopping, seek out a local business and see what they have to offer!  You could discover some great products and services while helping to build a strong and successful community around you.

When you invest money in your local economy, you’re not just helping local business owners — you’re also helping yourself. You’re making your town a better place to live in, with a rich character, thriving economy, and tightly knit community. And the more local businesses prosper, the more new ones will open, making it even easier to continue shopping locally in the future.

Join the conversation and tell us about a great local business in your communityinfo@roguevalleymagazine.com

Medford Police Turn Over Asante Criminal Investigation Results to District Attorney

The Jackson County District Attorney’s Office says today it has received the results of Medford Police Department’s criminal investigation of allegations of deadly drug diversion at a Medford hospital.

It says this afternoon it received Medford Police Department’s (MPD) results of its investigation into claims that a former Asante Rogue Regional Medical Center (Asante) nurse diverted medication intended for patients, replacing it with hospital tap water that caused deadly in-hospital infections.

The Jackson County District Attorney’s Office (JCDA) says it has MPD’s results which investigated the claims of criminal theft and misuse of controlled substances by the former Asante nurse. MPD has said that Asante administration reported the possible drug diversion in December.  In prior online postings, it disclosed that it had experienced serious infections in numerous patients.

MPD’s investigation started in December. JCDA says today it “involved the review of tens of thousands of documents, including medical records, and interviews with dozens of witnesses.”

Chief Deputy District Attorney Patrick Green is reviewing the investigation results.

Green said today, “I would like thank the Medford Police Department for its diligent and meticulous work on this complex and expansive investigation. I want to assure the community that I am working hard to review the results of the investigation expeditiously. If charges are filed, I will remain the lead prosecutor and assign two other senior prosecutors as co-counsel to assist with the prosecution. I share the community’s concern with this case and will ensure it remains a top priority going forward.”

JCDA says, “Given the ongoing nature of this investigation and the possibility of future pending criminal charges, the Jackson County District Attorney’s Office will not be releasing further facts regarding this investigation.”

Asante’s media liaison Abby (has refused to share a last name) told NewsWatch 12 today it “cannot comment on personnel matters” when asked about both the criminal investigation and reports that Asante’s chief executive officer left that position this week.

NewsWatch 12 confirmed that one of at least three Asante CEOs was removed from his position and from the building, escorted by three security personnel, and we’re awaiting a response from MPD about its work on the investigation.  Green said he has no further information he can provide. (SOURCE)

 

Early-Morning Burglary Investigation Leads to Arrests in Rural Central Point, Deputies Seize Guns, Drugs, Cash

CENTRAL POINT, Ore. – Jackson County Sheriff’s Office (JCSO) deputies arrested two suspects yesterday after an early-morning burglary in rural Central Point. Yesterday morning, a JCSO Community Service Deputy took a report from ECSO Dispatch just after 8 a.m. of a burglary in the 5700 block of Upton Road. Through the investigation, JCSO deputies identified several suspects and tracked them to an address in the 100 block of Laurelhurst Street, also in rural Central Point.

JCSO deputies obtained a search warrant for the property and identified a female suspect on scene. During the initial search of the property, deputies located an additional suspect hiding under a shed. The man did not respond to commands to come out and barricaded in the crawl space. After a lengthy standoff, deputies persuaded the man to give up through the use of pepper spray and a K9.

JCSO Criminal Investigations Division (CID), and Illegal Marijuana Enforcement Team (IMET) detectives responded to assist in the arrest and search of the property. During the search, investigators discovered 10 firearms including a stolen pistol, and an AR-style rifle with no serial number. Deputies also found body armor, an illegally-manufactured silencer, methamphetamine, heroin, Butane Honey Oil (BHO), 35 lbs. of processed cannabis, and 58.3 grams of fentanyl. Deputies also uncovered nearly $19,000 in cash.

The first suspect was Kelli Margaret Hernandez, 44, of Medford. She was arrested for conspiracy to commit second-degree burglary, and hindering prosecution. She was booked and lodged at the Jackson County Jail.

The second suspect was Mickey Ray Galatz, 28, of Central Point. He was arrested on 15 charges related to the incident, in addition to five outstanding warrants. The new charges include second-degree burglary, first and second-degree theft, second-degree criminal mischief, second-degree trespass, interfering with a peace officer, felon in possession of a firearm, felon in possession of body armor, possession of a prohibited firearm, unlawful possession of methamphetamine, unlawful distribution of methamphetamine, unlawful possession of heroin, and unlawful distribution of heroin. For the fentanyl Galatz was charged with unlawful possession of a schedule II-controlled substance – substantial quantity, and unlawful distribution of a schedule II-controlled substance. The outstanding warrants include probation violations for felon in possession of a firearm, two counts of felony unlawful possession of heroin, attempting to elude police by vehicle, and a Klamath County warrant for first-degree burglary and first-degree aggravated theft. Galatz is lodged in the Jackson County Jail.

This case is under further investigation with deputies following additional leads. There is no more information for release at this time.

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David Grubbs’ Murder Investigation Remains Active

Community still looking for answers in violent 2011 murder of David Grubbs on Ashland, Oregon bike path The Ashland Police Department’s investigation into the murder of David Grubbs on November 19, 2011 remains open and active. Recently two new detectives have been assigned to look into new leads that have come in.

This case remains important to David’s family, the community, and the Ashland Police Department. As detectives continue to pursue these new leads, anyone with additional information is encouraged to reach out to the Ashland Police Department at 541-488-2211. The reward for information leading to an arrest on this case remains at over $21,000.

Fauna Frey, 45, disappeared in Oregon on a road trip, June 29, 2020, following her brother’s death  —

https://original.newsbreak.com/@ada-e-1668135/3304227455096-fauna-frey-45-disappeared-in-oregon-on-a-road-trip-june-29-2020-following-her-brother-s-death

PART 2 – Newsweek Podcast Focusing on The Disappearance of Fauna Frey From Lane County

Here One Minute, Gone the Next —– PART 2 – Josephine County Sheriff Dave Daniel joins investigative journalist Alex Rogue to speak with Here One Minute, Gone the Next about the disappearance of Fauna Frey, the growing friction between citizen investigators and law enforcement, and the lack of resources in missing persons cases. https://podcasts.apple.com/us/podcast/the-disappearance-of-fauna-frey-pt2-feat-sheriff/id1707094441?i=1000630100040 PART 1 – John Frey joins Newsweek to discuss exclusive details about the case of his missing daughter that until now have been unavailable to the general public. READ MORE HERE: https://www.newsweek.com/exclusive-what-happened-fauna-frey-new-clues-uncovered-1827197?fbclid=IwAR3Z3Glru5lIgqiYXbs_nA1Fj8JuCIzM11OHSVHfwIucfq2f_G5y9y5bnmQ If you have any information on the whereabouts of Fauna Frey, call the anonymous tip line at 541-539-5638 or email FindFaunaFrey@gmail.com.

Help Find Fauna Frey #FindFaunaFrey FACEBOOK GROUP

 

 

More Oregonians Stuck Working Part-Time Jobs

The number of Oregonians working part time because they can’t find a full-time job is up sharply over the past two years. It’s a sign that the state’s tight labor market is easing — and a signal that will be a painful transition for some workers.

Roughly 73,000 Oregonians are working part-time because their hours have been cut or because they want a full-time job but haven’t been able to find one, according to data from the Oregon Employment Department.

Fewer than 50,000 Oregon workers worked part time, but not by choice, at the end of 2022. That was the lowest number this century, coming amid an extraordinary period for Oregon’s economy when the state had more job openings than unemployed people.

That was a great time for workers because it was pretty easy to find a job and because many employers were raising wages to hire and retain everyone they could.

The tight labor market slowed economic productivity, though, because businesses couldn’t find the workers to meet the demand for their products and services. It was particularly tough on Oregon’s hospitality industry and other fields with a high number of entry-level workers.

Nationally, the tight labor market also contributed to inflation. That prompted the Federal Reserve to raise interest rates, making it more expensive to carry a credit card balance or to borrow money to buy a house or car.

Oregon’s labor market now seems to be relaxing. The number of working Oregonians who can’t find full-time jobs has increased by more than 20,000 since 2022, over 50%.

It’s still not a high number by historical standards, roughly on par with the robust economy that predated the pandemic. And it’s down by about half from the worst months of the Great Recession. (The total briefly returned to peak levels in 2020, during the pandemic recession.)

The question now is whether Oregon’s labor market is settling out into “Goldilocks” territory — not too hot, not too cold — or whether the number of underemployed workers will continue to rise.

The share of Oregonians in the workforce is at its highest point in a dozen years. And there has never been a time when more Oregon workers had jobs in the prime of their careers, ages 25 to 54.

Yet hiring has slowed considerably over the past year and the unemployment rate has crept up from historic lows to 4.2%.

Recent layoffs in Oregon’s forest products industry, at Nike and at other large employers, along with a drop in semiconductor jobs, suggest some of the state’s economic pillars are at least a tad wobbly. (SOURCE)

Governor Kotek Visits the Confederated Tribes of the Umatilla Indian Reservation

Visit to CTUIR marks second visit of Governor’s commitment to visit all nine federally recognized Tribal nation of Oregon this year

Thursday, Governor Tina Kotek and First Lady Aimee Kotek Wilson spent the day with the Confederated Tribes of the Umatilla Indian Reservation (CTUIR). The visit is part of Governor Kotek’s commitment to meet with all of Oregon’s nine federally recognized sovereign Tribal nations in 2024.

“This visit with CTUIR was about strengthening our knowledge of the Tribe’s unique history,” Governor Kotek said. “The Tribe is working on some exciting, innovative initiatives and the state of Oregon is ready to support the good work of CTUIR however we can. I’d like to thank Chairman Burke, the Board of Trustees, and all members of CTUIR for the hospitality they’ve shown us as we’ve listened and learned in their community.”

“We are honored by Gov. Tina Kotek and the First Lady’s visit to the Umatilla Indian Reservation,” CTUIR Chairman Gary I. Burke said. “Gov. Kotek has shown us that she is fulfilling her promise to learn in-depth about each of the nine federally recognized tribes in Oregon such that she and her administration can more effectively work with us as distinct, individual sovereign governments. We thank Gov. Kotek, the First Lady and her staff for taking the time to learn more about the Confederated Tribes, our tribal sovereignty, our treaty rights and the work we are doing here in Eastern Oregon and throughout our traditional use areas.”

Governor Kotek and First Lady Kotek Wilson started the day at the Nixyáawii Governance Center for an invocation prayer and welcome reception from the Board of Trustees and CTUIR staff in the rotunda, followed by a conversation with the CTUIR Board of Trustees about the ways in which the state of Oregon can bolster partnerships on key projects and initiatives with the Tribe.

The Governor and the First Lady then toured the Yellowhawk Tribal Health Center, where CTUIR members are able to access comprehensive health care services ranging from behavioral health to dental care and physical therapy. Yellowhawk is the first tribal building in the state to enroll in Path to Net-Zero from Energy Trust of Oregon, which offers incentives and resources to projects pursuing net-zero energy use.

Following the visit at Yellowhawk Tribal Health Center, the Governor and First Lady took a tour to see where the Thorn Hollow Bridge was before it collapsed as a result of the 2020 record-breaking floods on the Umatilla Indian Reservation. The bridge is a crucial roadway that connects communities, and a public safety concern for residents and emergency services who relied on the bridge.

CTUIR’s Department of Natural Resources (DNR) has organized its functions and responsibilities through a focus on traditionally gathered foods identified by the CTUIR community as “First Foods,” including water, fish, big game, roots, and berries. The First Foods serving ritual in the community’s ceremonies and cultural events calls attention to the Tribe’s unwritten or natural laws called Tamanwit, which is about the reciprocity between people and the foods upon which we depend. The Governor and First Lady received the First Foods presentation from CTUIR over lunch at the Immeques Fisheries Acclimation Facility.

The Governor then hosted a ceremonial signing for Senate Bill 1567, the Walla Walla 2050 Strategic Plan, a landmark piece of legislation that allows for the implementation of the roadmap for cooperative water management in the Walla Walla Basin.

Following the ceremony, they visited the exhibits at the Tribe’s Tamástslikt Cultural Institute. The Institute’s featured exhibit is Portraits in Red: Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women & Girls Painting Project. Nayana LaFond’s painting project began in 2020 with one painting, “Lauraina in RED,” created for the National Day of Awareness for Missing and Murdered Native Women and Girls. Each portrait is of someone who is missing, was murdered, survived, their family member or friend, or an activist/hero fighting for the cause. The Governor and First Lady ended their visit with CTUIR by having dinner with the Board of Trustees.

Note to Editors: Three tribes comprise the Confederated Tribes of the Umatilla Indian Reservation (CTUIR): Cayuse, Umatilla, and Walla Walla. They have lived on the Columbia River Plateau for over 10,000 years, in an area of about 6.4 million acres in what is now northeastern Oregon and southeastern Washington.

In 1855, the tribes and the United States government concluded a treaty in which the tribes ceded more than 5 million acres, reserving 512,000 acres for their exclusive use in the form of a reservation. Various congressional acts of diminishment resulted in a significantly reduced reservation. In the treaty, the CTUIR reserved their inherent fishing and hunting rights and the right to gather traditional foods and medicines within the ceded areas.

The traditional way of life of the tribes is called “Washat” or “Seven Drums prayer service.” The Umatilla, Walla Walla, and Nez Perce languages are spoken and a language preservation program is helping to re-establish use of these languages by youth.​

It was a very busy Sunday for first responders in Klamath County. The calls we’re all within about an hour of each other midday Sunday.

This is from Klamath County District Attorney David Schutt:

“On April 28 th , 2024, at 9:59a.m., a call came in to Klamath County
Emergency Dispatch reporting a subject had been shot on Keno-Worden
Road. Information provided that there were several subjects currently on
the property or in the area. Oregon State Police Troopers and Klamath
County Sheriff’s Deputies arrived at the scene within 15 minutes. Several
individuals were detained and another was eventually taken into custody a
short distance from the scene of the shooting. The Klamath County Major
Crime Team was activated and this incident remains under investigation as
a suspected homicide. Mr. Ole Hans Rendahl, (D.O.B. 09-12-84) was
found deceased at the location. It appears at this time all involved persons
have been identified and detained. Law enforcement does not believe any
threat to the public exists at this time.”

Around the same time frame, Tyler’s lottery lounge on Oregon Avenue was
held up in gunpoint by two men. It’s not immediately known if they escaped
on foot or in a vehicle but they were reported last seen on or near Donald
street. No one was injured and it is not immediately known how much

money was taken from the business. The manhunt for those two continues
as well.
It is not believed that the two incidents are related in any way.
Finally, there was a brush fire reported on highway 97 near milepost 247
near Chiloquin during the same time frame. Fire crews quickly got to the
scene and extinguished the blaze. No reports of damage or injuries in that incident.

David A. Schutt
Klamath County District Attorney

 

Oregon health leaders prepare for future Medicaid changes to improve care

The Oregon Health Authority aims to erase disparities in the next phase of the Oregon Health Plan, which insures more than 1 million low-income residents

Oregon’s health care system is at a crossroads as it faces a series of challenges and lofty goals.

The state has a behavioral health crisis that is exacerbated by a lack of qualified providers to treat people. The health care system is complex and difficult for vulnerable people on the margins of society to access, whether for primary care or treatment for a drug addiction. And the Oregon Health Authority and state leaders want to eliminate inequities in health care in six years.

In a forum Wednesday in Portland, Oregon health care leaders said the state has opportunities to improve the system and should look for ways to bring about substantial change rather than accept the status quo. About 300 people attended the event, which was organized by the Oregon Health Forum, a nonprofit and affiliate of The Lund Report, a news outlet that covers the health care industry. The event was moderated by Emily Harris, a journalist and senior advisor for the Oregon Health Forum.

The panelists were: Dr. Sejal Hathi, director of the Oregon Health Authority; former Gov. John Kitzhaber; Rep. Rob Nosse, D-Portland; Dr. Bruce Goldberg, former director of the health authority; and Mary Monnat, president and CEO of Lifeworks NW, a mental health and addiction treatment provider in the Portland region.

The Oregon Health Plan, the Medicaid-funded program that insures more than 1 million low-income Oregonians, plays a key role in the state’s goal to improve the care of Oregnians. The plan provides free medical, dental and behavioral health care to Oregonians through a network of 16 coordinated care organizations, which contract with the state and insure people through regional networks of providers.

The state’s now planning changes for the next version of contracts with the coordinated care organizations, which will go into effect in 2027. For Oregonians, the changes could determine how providers and the insurers invest in the regions they serve, how they will provide health care for Oregonians and how they will guide people to other services that improve their overall health, like housing assistance.

As that work unfolds, the Oregon Health Authority aims to eliminate health inequities by 2030 so that people in different communities and races aren’t impacted disproportionately by ill health or access to providers. Hathi, director of the Oregon Health Authority, said the agency plans to release a strategic plan in June mapping a path to that goal and other innovations which experts say have been a hallmark of the state’s use of Medicaid federal and state dollars.

“We know it’s a mission,” Hathi said. “And we know that it’s aspirational, but this is a goal that we absolutely have to set and we will achieve it if we work together.”

Hathi said the authority and the health care system cannot meet their goals on their own of eliminating health care inequities. Other partners, like academia and the business sector, will need to help, she said.

 Panelists call for less bureaucracy

For the average Oregonian, coordinated care organizations are an obscure and behind-the-scenes part of the health care system. But they have access to millions of dollars and the ability to put money into community projects to aid the overall health of Oregonians.

Oregon obtained permission from the federal government to organize the state’s Medicaid system under the Oregon Health Plan, with one or more coordinated care organizations responsible for patients in each region. Kitzhaber, a former emergency room doctor, shepherded that organization, along with Goldberg and others, with the idea that local organizations would best be able to rein in costs and improve health care outcomes for those in their regions.

Kitzhaber said regulations gradually increased and made the state’s relationship with coordinated care organizations less of a partnership working for the most effective innovations to a top-down, unbending and sometimes confrontational relationship.

“I think we need to figure out how to have a balance” between regulation and flexibility, he said.

Hathi agreed, saying the current administrative requirements are burdensome for the Medicaid insurers as well as local public health authorities and others in the health sector.

“We need to arrest that cascade of administrative burden and do more to distill and to synthesize so that these communities are all rowing in the same direction,” Hathi said.

Nosse, who chairs the state House Health Care Committee, has listened in hearings to complaints from coordinated care organization leaders. He said if the state could cut back on te forms and paperwork, that would help ease frustrations.

“If we can whittle that down a little bit, there’s more possibility to provide care or do things that we want the model to actually do,” Nosse said. “Somebody’s really important report is somebody else’s really dumb thing.”

Workforce challenges

Panelists also said the limited behavioral health workforce makes it challenging to set up and maintain programs, even with more state money.

Goldberg, a former health authority director, said the wait times for people to access mental health care are strikingly different compared to other health care problems.

“You show up at a hospital emergency room with a heart attack and you’ll get care within three minutes,” he said.

But if you show up at an emergency room with a mental health problem, he said, you may get treated in a week to a year.

Panelists also recommended Oregon consider drastic ways to transform the system. Goldberg suggested the state provide a financial incentive to award coordinated care organizations for providing mental health or drug addiction care within 24 hours.

Currently, the state has a program that awards insurers based on improved health outcomes in about a dozen areas, such as health assessments, dental care and treatment for high blood pressure. Goldberg suggested that list be whittled down to just one metric of timely mental health and addiction treatment.

The crowd applauded.

“Maybe we would actually start to move the needle,” Goldberg said. “It’s not going to be overnight, but we don’t have any accountability for who’s going to do that.”

Another idea: create more incentives to attract people to enter the behavioral health field. Monnat, president and CEO of Lifeworks NW, suggested the state pay people to go to school so they don’t need student loans. At Lifeworks NW, there are about 100 job openings right now, Monnat said.

Hathi said the $1.5 billion the state has invested in behavioral health in the last four years is great, but “it’s a drop in the bucket.”

“At the end of the day, we can’t just throw darts at a board and hope that we strike the panacea,” Hathi said. “We need a real vision and a strategy for how we’re going to transform the system.” (SOURCE)

Controversial Linn County chicken ranch put on hold following permit withdrawal

Construction plans for a large-scale facility proposing to raise 3.4 million chickens per year near Scio in Linn County, Oregon, will be put on hold.

ONE TIME ONLY USE

That follows a state decision to temporarily withdraw the facility’s permit ahead of a challenge that was scheduled to go on trial in early May.

It’s the last of three large chicken farms a coalition of local residents and farmers have fought against since 2020. The other two, which had each proposed to raise 4.3 million broiler chickens per year for Foster Farms, have already scrapped plans to develop there. Foster Farms is one of the largest poultry producers on the West Coast.

At issue is a confined animal feeding operation, or CAFO permit, granted to J-S Ranch by the Oregon Department of Agriculture and Department of Environmental Quality. Environmental groups and farmers argue the operation would produce harmful air and water pollutants.

A CAFO permit is intended to protect surface and ground water by limiting the amount of manure, wastewater and nutrients that can be discharged from a farm.

But the permit issued to the farm only addresses groundwater. Kendra Kimbirauskas, a Scio farmer and a member of Farmers Against Foster Farms, a group opposing J-S Ranch, said it should have included stronger requirements to protect surface waters.

“We contend that the site for the operation is a terrible site. It basically has standing water all winter long,” Kimbirauskas said. “It’s approximately 400 yards from the North Santiam River, which is a beautiful river that so many people recreate on. And it’s a drinking water source for communities like Jefferson and the city of Albany.”

If allowed to move forward, the J-S Ranch would build 11 large barns, and expects to produce 4,500 tons of manure per year, which would be sold to other farmers as fertilizer.

A petition filed in Linn County is asking the county circuit court to reverse the state’s decision to grant a permit, or to have ODA and DEQ add stronger requirements. The case was supposed to go on trial in early May, though the state’s temporary permit withdrawal gives the agencies a pause, said Amy van Saun, an attorney for the Center for Food Safety, representing the petitioners.

“It means that they take a pause and a timeout to look back and reconsider, ‘Did we make the correct decision?’” van Saun said. “An Oregon law gives them expressly this ability, if they’re taken to court on an action, to say ‘Time out, we want to think about it more and we might affirm, do the same thing or modify what we did or we might totally reverse what we did.’”

The decision means J-S Ranch cannot yet begin construction on the site. In a brief response to OPB, Eric Simon, the owner and operator of J-S Ranch said the decision is frustrating. Simon added he was getting ready to begin construction this summer.

“I’m disappointed,” Simon said. “And I’m not sure how we’re going to move forward.”

The state has until Oct. 31 to decide whether it will make any changes to the permit, like keep it as it is, amend it or revoke it. Kimbirauskas said for now, she and other farmers in the area can let out a sigh of relief.

“We are going to remain vigilant and we are committed to fighting any proposal of this magnitude on that location,” Kimbirauskas. (SOURCE)

One year after the end of the COVID-19 pandemic emergency, Oregon among top states keeping people covered

More than one million people are keeping their Oregon Health Plan benefits due to Oregon’s efforts to expand coverage options

SALEM, Ore. — With more than 90 percent of the state’s 1.5 million renewals complete, more than 4 out of 5 Oregonians are keeping their Oregon Health Plan (OHP) or other Medicaid benefits.

During the COVID-19 Public Health Emergency (PHE), which ended one year ago in April 2023, the federal government allowed states to keep people on Medicaid benefits. This ended when the pandemic emergency ended, so over the last year Oregon has been making sure everyone on OHP is still eligible.

At this point in the PHE unwinding process:

  • Just 1,078 members, about 0.07 percent, still need to respond to renewal requests 9,573 members, about 0.65 percent, have responded to their renewal but are awaiting state action on the response.
  • The remaining renewals, about 8.72 percent of the total, will occur over the summer.

Oregon’s 81.8 percent renewal rate continues to be the third highest in a national comparison of state renewal rates by KFF, a nonpartisan health policy organization. Oregon’s high renewal rates are due to proactive efforts by the state to keep people covered, including extended response timelines, and adding the upcoming OHP Bridge program for adults with higher incomes.

Members who have not received a renewal yet should:

  • Keep their address and contact information up to date.
  • Check their mail or ONE Online account for their renewal letter.
  • Do what the renewal letter asks as soon as possible. Anyone concerned they missed their letter should get help with their renewal via one of the ways to find help listed below.
  • Members who did not respond to renewals can still re-open their case three months after it closes if they are still eligible, and they can reapply at any time.

Although most people are keeping coverage, approximately 240,000 people will lose or have reduced medical benefits and need to consider other coverage options.

  • People who do not have coverage through an employer or Medicare may be able to enroll through the Oregon Health Insurance Marketplace and get financial help. Most people who enroll through HealthCare.gov qualify for this help.
  • The Marketplace is sending information to people who are no longer eligible for OHP benefits, advising of other potential coverage options.
  • People who have recently lost OHP benefits can enroll anytime until November 30, 2024, or within 60 days of their benefits ending.
  • For more information and ways to get help signing up for Marketplace, Medicare, or employer coverage, see “What to do if OHP is ending” below.

On Feb. 13, 2024, the federal government approved a revised plan for Oregon’s remaining 126,000 post-pandemic renewals.

Many of these renewals were affected by a federal request for more than 30 states to review automated renewal processes or restorations of some Oregon Supplemental Income Program Medical (OSIPM) benefits. A May 2024 technical update to Oregon’s ONE Eligibility system  will enable Oregon to use the new automated  process  for the remaining renewals.

Renewal letters will be sent to members in four waves between June and September. Members will still have 90 days to respond, and 60 days’ advance notice before any termination or reduction in benefits. This means the final responses would be due in December 2024, and the final closures will happen in February 2025.

Data about pandemic unwinding renewals appears in the Medical Redeterminations Dashboard.  The dashboard data and these press releases will not include renewals for OHP members who have already renewed early in the unwinding process, who are coming up for renewal again. Over time, Oregon is switching to renewing most OHP members every two years instead of annually.

April OHP renewal data — As of March 19, 2024, 1,317,810 people have completed the renewal process. This represents 90.6 percent of all OHP and Medicaid members.

  • 1,077,765 people (81.8 percent) were renewed and kept their benefits.
  • 226,042 people (17.2 percent) were found ineligible.
  • 14,003 people (1.1 percent) had a reduction in their benefits. Most of these members lost full OHP but were able to continue Medicare Savings Programs that help pay their Medicare costs.

Find help renewing your benefits

  1. Learn more about how to renew your Oregon Health Plan medical coverage.
  2. Call the ONE Customer Service Center at 800-699-9075. All relay calls are accepted, and help is available in multiple languages. Wait times are lowest between 7 and 8 a.m.
  3. Visit or call a local Oregon Department of Human Services office. People can find their local office at https://www.oregon.gov/odhs/Pages/office-finder.aspx.
  4. Visit a community partner for free, in-person help. To find one near you visit OregonHealthCare.gov/GetHelp (English) or orhim.info/ayuda(Spanish).

What to do if your OHP is ending:

  • First, review the case summary in your letter to make sure the information used to make the decision was correct. If that information has changed, notify the state via one of the options above If the information on file for you is correct and you disagree with the decision, you can request a hearing. Learn more about hearings.
  • Explore options through an employer. If you, your spouse, or a parent are working, you may be eligible for health coverage through that employer. Talk to your manager or Human Resources department to see if you qualify. You will have a special enrollment period to enroll mid-year due to loss of OHP benefits.
  • If you have or are eligible for Medicare: For help understanding and choosing the right Medicare options, go to https://OregonHealthcare.gov/GetHelp to find an insurance agent or a counselor at the Senior Health Insurance Benefits Assistance Program (SHIBA). You can also call SHIBA at 800-722-4134.

If you need to sign up for Medicare for the first time, contact the Social Security Administration (SSA) at 800-772-1213 to enroll by phone or find a local office. You can also enroll in Medicare online at ssa.gov/medicare/sign-up.

  • Nearly 80 percent of Oregonians qualify for financial help through the Oregon Health Insurance Marketplace. Visit OregonHealthCare.gov/WindowShop to answer a few quick questions, find out how much you can save and find out how much coverage may cost you. You can also call the Marketplace Transition Help Center at 833-699-6850 (toll-free, all relay calls accepted).
  • Need free local help finding other coverage? Visit OregonHealthCare.gov/GetHelp to find professional help near you.

The Oregon Health Authority (OHA) and Oregon Department of Human Services (ODHS) are committed to transparency and will continue to send monthly information about medical coverage among Oregonians as the agencies continue to track the programs. Check our ONE Eligibility Operations Dashboards for more frequent updates on medical renewal data and wait times for callers to the ONE Customer Service Center.

Oregon Secretary of State releases 2024 Civic Engagement Toolkit

Oregon Secretary of State LaVonne Griffin-Valade released a civic engagement toolkit today, aimed at helping organizations do voter registration and voter turnout work in the 2024 elections. The tools included in the 2024 toolkit are official, non-partisan, research-backed and free to use with or without attribution to our office. Download the 2024 Civic Engagement Toolkit here.

 

Oregon Offers Electric Car Rebates Again – Apply Now Until June 3rd

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Due to high demand and limited funding, OCVRP will be open for a short time in 2024. Vehicles must be purchased or leased between April 3, 2024, to June 3, 2024, to be eligible for a rebate. Applicants have six months from their date of purchase or lease to apply. Low- and moderate-income households can prequalify for the $5,000 Charge Ahead rebate by completing the application now at https://apps.oregon.gov/DEQ/Voucher/apply.

Oregon to Honor Fallen Law Enforcement Officers May 7th, 2024

Every year, the Oregon Law Enforcement Memorial Ceremony honors the state’s law enforcement officers who have died in the line of duty. This year’s ceremony will be held Tuesday, May 7 at 1 p.m. at the Oregon Public Safety Academy in Salem. The annual event commemorates the more than 190 fallen officers who have made the ultimate sacrifice in service to the state of Oregon since the 1860s. This includes law enforcement, corrections, and parole and probation officers from city, county, state, tribal and federal law enforcement agencies. The Department of Public Safety Standards and Training is proud to host the ceremony in partnership with the Oregon Law Enforcement Memorial Fund, Oregon Concerns of Police Survivors (C.O.P.S.), Oregon Fallen Badge Foundation, and various statewide law enforcement associations.

 

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